Domestic Labor and Pandemic

Welcome to the brave new world of cleaning up after yourself and no longer burdening black women with the unpaid labor and invisible upkeep of taking care of your personal hygiene and sanitation. Get used to cleaning up after your own damn self because we’re all nursemaids now.

Neither race, gender, class, nor your professional status will protect you from having to pitch in and handle your share of the dirty work. Wipe down that counter and polish away those smears. Not only will your work be invisible, but you’ll have to try and look good while performing it since, now, your life probably depends on it. It’s only what black women have been doing for free for the last four centuries.

So hop to it! There’s plenty of unseen, undervalued work for everybody to do. 


Animal>>> Cyborg>>> Machine (2009)

This video is much racier and sleeker than the previous montage vid I posted; more sound effects and video clips.

Thanks, Cs! 

postracial hauntings book coverRhetorics of Whiteness: Postracial Hauntings in Popular Culture, Social Media, and Education (2017)features the chapter, “Color Deafness: White Writing as Palimpsest for African American in Breaking Bad Screen Captioning and Video Technologies English” coauthored by Nicole E. Snell and yours truly—won the 2018 Conference on College Composition & Communication Outstanding Book Award in the Edited Collection category. This award would not have been possible without the steadfast commitment and encouragement of the collection’s editors: Tammie M. Kennedy, Joyce Irene Middleton, and Krista Ratcliffe.

This Southern Illinois University Press publication is made all the more special by the esteemed list of fellow constributors: Sarah E. Austin, Lee Bebout, Jennifer Beech, Cedric Burrows, Leda Cooks, Sharon Crowley, Anita M. DeRouen, Tim Engles, Christine Farris, Amy Goodburn, M. Shane Grant, Gregory Jay, Ronald A. Kuykendall, Kristi McDuffie, Alice McIntyre, Peter McLaren, Keith D. Miller, Lilia D. Monzó, Casie Moreland, Ersula Ore, Annette Harris Powell, Catherine Prendergast, Meagan Rodgers, Jennifer Seibel Trainor, Victor Villanueva, and Hui Wu.

The award ceremony takes place next week during the CCCC National Convention in Kansas City. 

Rhetorics of Neighboring



Greeted my neighbor from her porch across the street. I smiled and thanked her while laughing to myself. I waved back with equal enthusiasm and finished sweeping my front steps.

My neighbor is an older European woman who is still learning English. When I told a few of my friends about my neighborly exchange, the idea of an “endorsement’  struck us all as funny and odd, but it made sense too—especially considering the residential layout and circumstances of my community. I rent a small house across the street from this particular neighbor. She and her husband own several larger houses on the same block, in addition to the one they already live in.  And while it’s a pretty well integrated neighborhood, I’m almost sure I’m the only single black woman, living without children on our whole entire street. My neighbors are very nice and everyone always look out for each other.

The word “endorse” comes from Latin law, meaning to write on the back of something. For this reason, the idea of an endorsement was originally meant to signify some type of legal documentation. Using the word in this particular context is to commit a solecism because of the way it grammatically pro/claims higher status by naively presuming that another person requires a voucher in the first place (since writing on the back of another person definitely would not be in keeping with modern standards of politeness). The irony of “endorsing” a person reveals a social order or conceit of authority through a politically measured, albeit kindly, acceptance of others. This type of greeting in English appropriates the proprietary of “neighborliness” through the magnanimous imposition of one’s personal rules of etiquette and understanding of good decorum  {~:


Bob Marley House in Kingston (& Other Tourists Traps)

I toured the Bob Marley House on Kingston’s Hope Road. Interesting. And in ways I didn’t expect or necessarily want. Not all museums and galleries have the same goals in mind, but it was the way they wanted us to move through the Hope Road house that seemed to contrive the entire idea of Marley’s life’s work and social philosophy. The presentation of Marley’s impact on the cultural politics and social history of Jamaica was canned and commercialized. Less like Biltmore Estate in which certain critical questioning and commentary is encouraged by curators, it reminded me more of the Texas Alamo — evacuated of cultural essence yet filled with petrified, staged relics.

Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica
Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica

I enjoyed walking the grounds before beginning the official tour.

Quite interestingly, there were some tourists taking the tour with us and posing as Rastafarians. One was a blonde white woman in cornrows, accompanied by two tall, thin black men—each with medium length, rather well-groomed dreads. Their main purpose, it appeared, was to encourage orderly, clockwise movement from one découpaged room of Kingston Gleaner newspaper clippings to the next, while prompting foreign tourists to exclaim their/our excitement over such gorgeously enshrined wonder in line with the requisite number of “oohs!” and “ahhs!”

The most significant duty of the fake tourists seemed only to help move us Yankees efficiently toward the fake gift shop. The docent allowed us a brief peep into Bob Marley’s bedroom when I commented that room’s location and layout looked like the brain center in an artists’ colony, That’s when I was corrected by the blonde woman in cornrows who told me that I was actually viewing the “lion’s den.”


Next, the docent clumsily herded us into the adjacent room and prompted all her “rasta” visitors to pretend-purchase CD copies of the Legend album—smack in the middle of the house on the second floor, no less! I found this absolutely hilarious since, as everyone knows, the gift shop is always located at the exit.

I was over the fakeness of the tour by then and all but completely tuned out, crawling around the perimeter of the rooms, trying to decipher the newspaper stories they apparently didn’t want us to read… since select controversial clippings had been pasted below the chair board. Sadly, the headline stories at eye-level were NOT about Marley’s cultural dissidence and political activism; those were all wallpapered at ankle height. Certain words and phrases were conveniently scratched out to obscure, if not outright change, the facts surrounding Peter Tosh’s assassination.

About a half hour into being upstairs on the second floor, I quietly asked the tour guide if I might briefly excuse myself from the group in order to climb the Marley House staircase three at a time, which according to her narrative, was exactly how Bob Marley himself used the steps. She pensively answered yes after some consideration. I bolted up and down the stairs twice before they asked me to stop. She did say that’s how Marley took the steps, didn’t she?

Two black women wearing braids taking a selfie in front of a Bob Marley mural
I met this nice young woman from London who goes by the name of ViviVaroom. We made a genuine connection as she agreed to help me try out my new selfie stick (… the most shameless of tourists’ trappings).

We decided it was time to leave once inside the sanitized “shotgun” room, which once again was wallpapered with posters, newspaper clippings, and overblown handbills. That’s when it occurred to me, and to anyone who might discerningly observe, the rastas on tour were not there just to provide the illusion of a thriving tourism landmark.

The Marley House is definitely a tourist trap, but more like something of the Lonely Planet cliché variety. I can only imagine (though not confirm) the rasta tourists had likely been planted by the museum to procure other kinds of plants for naïve tourists at exorbitant prices. I say this only because of how the buttoned-up docent so gleefully engaged the rastas’ thinly veiled innuendos about the famous herb that Marley popularized during his superstardom. I may have been a tourist with a selfie stick, paying $20 a pop for some cock’n bull tour, but NEVER will I get caught out in the world like a typical American party animal on the hunt for some foolishness. Not the kid… no, never that!

The best part was when I got to climb Marley’s staircase three at a time. It was—quite literally—a fun exercise in spatial recovery that also constituted a most useful ethnography on the practice of memorial decorum. (Well, you knew I had to get all “jargony-rhetorician” on you eventually, didn’t ya? :~)

UPDATE: The Marley House gift shop is indeed conveniently located near the entrance/exit. It’s a restaurant where they sell spicy beef patties, fresh coconut water, plantains, curry goat and other Jamaican fare for a not so fair price. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bottled water is their best selling item. I’m sure they nearly sell ’em slam out on the daily because they definitely ain’ tryna run the A/C during museum hours, ensuring their customers appreciate a thirst-quencher on the way out. 

Hold Paula Deen Accountable If You Care About Justice

Clarence "Sunshine" Thomas
Clarence “Long-Dong” Thomas

In my last post I made an appeal to forgive Paula Deenfor her use of the word “nigger” because I was feeling a sense of charity given that my general attitude toward her was already one of low expectations. I glossed over key points also due, in part, to generate a post with brevity and levity. The mild sense of sympathy I felt, however, was countered by a generalized snark and outright cynicism that comes from living as an African American woman living in the South and being a frequent observer (and occasional target) of some individuals behaving like rude, misanthropes all up, in, and through the public sphere. Granted, Southerners are generally very polite people — profusely so, in fact. Southern hospitality is an ethos that most strive to uphold. Though let us not forget, by its very definition, hospitality is a stance that is meant for dealing with strangers or outsiders. Southern hospitality is only an outward appearance; something I call, bless your heart and watch your back. Therefore, for the most part, feelings of snark overtook charity — Christian charity — Southern style.

At any rate, it’s the thing I’ve learned to cope with, dealing with all the craziness of living and working in the South. My first instinct to blow off the gravity of Deen’s actions is the result that comes from years of battle fatigue while trying to avoid bitterness, hypertension, and the gout. For years, I’ve been teaching, learning, working, and living with folk who are oblivious to the privileges and luxuries they derive from inadvertently creating the range of minor inconveniences and insurmountable disasters in the lives of the people of color surrounding them. It happens regularly, without thought, as a simple matter of routine habit. It’s something you simply become accustomed to when you’ve been living in the Carolinas for as long as I have. But of course, as we all know, feelings are emotions. And emotions have a tendency to distort clear thinking. So I write this post to say that my last post (June 25, 2013) is wrong… or at least not entirely correct. That’s right. McFarlane was wrong.

Forgiveness is a good thing, but redress is too. The reason my earlier post missed the mark is because I, like most others, was focused on the media hype. Whereas attention to the more sensational aspects of Paula Deen being politically incorrect and quite possibly rude is one thing, the fact of the matter still remains that Deen was engaging in flat out employment discrimination, which far exceeds the problem of poor interpersonal skills or bad manners. The deposition that brought Deen’s behavior to light involves sworn testimony about Deen using the power of her corporation to place white employees in the front of her business while keeping black employees in the back. In other words, Deen practiced racially discriminatory institutional policies as a matter of workplace procedure. What this means is that Paula Deen actively assigned people to differential labor categories on the basis of race — if not soley, at least partially. In so doing, Deen actively made the decision to foreclose on people’s lives, thereby limiting individual employees’ economic and social chances in life — both long and short term — including (and by no means limited to) their ability to secure reasonable housing, attain decent educational opportunities for themselves and their children, as well as achieve dignified retirements free from poverty. This is the significant issue at hand and flaws in Deen’s individual personality are only tip of the ice burg.

To look at the case of the Paula Deen, here is racism and this is how it works. It works through the material benefits and tangible privileges received by one phenotypical group at the expense of another, wherein you work other folk to death and hurt their children and their children’s children into perpetuity . However, the claim of employment discrimination is seen as altogether different from proving it, says the U.S. Supreme Court. We can thank Clarence Thomas for this little nugget of injustice. Back before Thomas was on the Supreme Court, he headed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (through the auspices of a Ronald Reagan affirmative action appointment, no less) it became federal policy to disregard claims of racial discrimination based solely on outcome. Merely demonstrating (statistically, or otherwise) that all the employees who happen to be African American get assigned to the back kitchen is irrelevant. The burden of proof demands more than that. Recent politicization of the judicial branch has resulted in numerous close split decisions. This was the EEOC policy that was legitimized once Bush 40 appointed Clarence Thomas to the high court. From the SCOTUS bench, Thomas continues to rule with other conservatives. Thomas’ record of decisions for key racial discrimination cases tends to favor the accused/offending parties. Burden of proof  rest with victims. The plaintiff/victim must not only show damages or unfavorable outcomes, but must prove it’s being done on purpose. Paula Deen’s funny little nigger jokes show how she intentionally disqualified black employees from receiving fair labor compensation. The point is this: it does matter that Deen used the n-word, but not for the reasons the media would have us believe. The outcomes of personal and symbolic racism, such as the derogatory language used by Deen in the institutional context of a public, corporate establishment effectively translates into actual and real institutional racism and substantively proves intent to discriminate. In this particular context, Deen’s use of the word “nigger” equals the kind of racism that causes infant mortality and malnutrition, premature death from stress and overwork, destroys families, shatters dreams, perpetuates intergenerational poverty and social unrest, and fundamentally undermines what it means to live in a civil society based on democratic values. Therefore, if we really care about what we allege America to be, then we have no choice but to hold Paula Deen accountable for saying nigger— even if it was in the context of telling stupid jokes.

When all is said and done (and I think we can all agree at this point that a lot was said and even more was done), the bottom basic point is that Paula Deen ought not be allowed to use the power and wealth of corporate systems to institutionalize social caste groups—not if we are to live in an ethical, fair, and meritocratic society.